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Fall Protection Safety Tip: How do Impact Indicators Work on Fall Protection Harnesses?

Do you know what an impact indicator is on fall protection gear? Let’s explore this important safety feature.

Harnesses involved in falls or exposed to impact forces are required by OSHA, ANSI, CSA and CE to be removed from service. CSA Z259.10-18 requires fall impact indicators to be built into each full body harness. This feature is included to help facilitate inspection of the harness by providing a visual aid to the inspector or user.

Why is the Impact Indicator on Fall Protection Gear Important?

There are two types of impact indicators that harnesses may be fitted with. One type is incorporated into the harness’ back D-ring pad. When these harnesses are involved in a fall, a break or a gap in the back D-ring pad is created by the impact force, which acts as a visual impact indicator for inspection. The other type is a fold-over style impact indicator in which the rear vertical harness webbing is folded and stitched together with a specific stitch pattern. When these harnesses are involved in a fall, the stitches tear causing the webbing to unfold. These visual impact indicators help users and competent persons to quickly determine that the harness has been exposed to a fall or equivalent impact forces and should be removed from service and destroyed.

The visual impact indicators will typically activate when a force of 450-650 lbs. has been applied. Deployed impact indicators cannot be re-set or repaired. During repeated activities, such as training exercises where a student is suspended or bouncing while positioning or is jolted during training, 450-650 lbs. of force may be exceeded, and the visual impact indicators may deploy even though no fall was experienced. You should always inspect the impact indicators after these exercises to ensure they have not deployed. 

What Types of Harnesses are Recommended for Training with Suspension or Rescue from Dorsal D-rings?

Most 3M harnesses now incorporate a stitched fold-over webbing style impact indicator. These are often preferred for training and suspension work as they are typically not affected by general position, suspension, or rescue activities. Harnesses with the D-ring pad impact indicators for suspended dorsal d-ring activity may be more prone to deployment.

When a visual impact indicator is deployed during training exercises, but no free fall has occurred, 3M allows the harness with a deployed visual impact indicator to be used for further training exercises provided that a competent person has inspected the harness and found it to be otherwise acceptable and in safe working condition.

Aside from training exercises as noted above, if your harness shows visual impact indication it should be removed from service immediately. If you have further questions, please contact 3M Fall Protection

Make sure to thoroughly review the 3M Instructions For Use provided with your product prior to use. Have questions about your fall protection or other personal protective equipment?  Contact our health and safety specialists to make sure you have the right personal protective equipment for your application.